Cassie DeVillers

Cassie DeVillers celebrates Wahpeton’s play-in game victory on Saturday, Feb. 29.

The Huskies came through in the clutch once again, taking care of Grand Forks Central for a 53-42 victory on Saturday, Feb. 29 to advance to the Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament.

“I’m really happy for the seniors to be able to finish their career here with a win,” Wahpeton coach Brian Watson said. “It’s a long season when you don’t win as many games as you’d like to win, but for the girls to be able to stay with it and focus on the task at hand shows a lot. I appreciate the effort that they’ve put in to stick with it and get themselves into the tournament.”

Wahp took a three-point lead into halftime on their home floor. Their posts were struggling with foul trouble and Jaylyn Romereim came off the bench to spark her squad with a trio of quick points near the end of the half.

“She hasn’t played very much as of late, but she gets in there and makes a basket, makes a free throw and that keeps us up at halftime and keeps the momentum going,” Watson said. “Those contributions were huge for us. It doesn’t matter if you scored one point, we needed all of them today.”

Small but crucial contributions were a running theme in the game with everybody doing their part to secure the win. Jordyn Kahler may have been the only Wahpeton player in double digits with 21, but seven other players got in the scoring column.

The hosts broke the game open when the score was tied at 28. Watson took a timeout and his team settled in to go on a 10-0 run. Kahler and Haley Kjar each hit a triple and a fastbreak score from Sam Pithey capped off the flurry.

“That’s kind of the way things gave gone lately. We’ve had a little bit of a lead and then we let them get back in, we take a timeout to talk about and then we start to execute,” Watson said. “Early in the season, we weren’t able to do that. Late now, we’ve been able to execute the way we need to down the stretch and either take the lead or stretch out the lead.”

Free-throw shooting kept the Knights at arm’s length down the stretch. The Huskies buried nine out of their final 10 shots from the stripe, ending the night 17-23.

“There’s been points in the season where we’ve missed some down the stretch and I think in the grand scheme of things, maybe those free throws early don’t mean anything and you’re just preparing yourself for now,” Watson said.

Winning the battle on the glass was another key component to the Wahp win. The Knights were held to five second-chance points and only nabbed 22 boards compared to the Huskies’ 29.

“We know that this team is very scrappy. They can get a lot of offensive rebounds, they can push and shove and be physical,” Watson said. “We knew that we needed to try to combat them. For us to out-rebound them, shows we were focused on the job that we needed to do and we had everybody in there.”

Wahpeton (6-16) will head to Devils Lake, North Dakota, for the opening round of the tournament at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3. Even if they lose to the undefeated Firebirds, they’ll move on to play at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. If the Huskies can win two before they lose two, they’ll earn a spot in the state tournament.

“I’m happy that we’re playing and I’m sure the girls are happy that we’re playing. I said in the locker room, I don’t care who we play. The point is that we’re playing next week,” Watson said. “We know that they were undefeated in the regular season, but crazy things can happen. If we stay focused and do the things we need to do, who knows.”

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